When the Israelites came to him, asking that he give them an idol to replace Moses (and the God who just performed Hollywood-style miracles to save their lives!) he was clearly having doubts himself, or he wouldn’t have jumped on the request so willingly.
And Exodus Thirty Two doesn’t use code language or prose to describe how the new god arrives: Aaron took what they handed him [gold earrings] and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. (vs.4) Straightforward. No magic. He fashioned gold into the shape of a calf. Whala! New god.
They built an altar for it. Sacrificed to it. Danced around it. And declared this god responsible for bringing them out of Egypt. Not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob).
And here is Aaron, not simply standing-by passively…but actively coordinating events. The same Aaron who God just appointed to serve as priest, to wear elaborate garments signifying dignity and honor, to be the keeper of the temple, facilitator of sacrifices and offerings, the only person (alongside his sons) able to enter God’s presence in the Holy Place, with the power to make decisions on behalf of the Israelites. (Exodus 28)
And what is Aaron’s response, when Moses asks, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” He gives the same, victim-mentality response so many of us still give today. It just happened.
“They gave me the gold and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
Huh. Nothing about the tool or time he used to fashion it. It just happened.
But because of the parallel story – the conversation Moses is having with God about the sinful behavior of Aaron and the Israelites – there is grace. I love that.
Moses persuades God. Let me say that again. He persuades God…to show the people mercy because of his promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to make their descendants a great nation, in a great land. Moses reasons with God (vs.11-12) and uses scripture (vs.13) to plead his case on behalf of the Israelites. And it works.
I love that God wants us to bring intelligent conversation – debate even – into prayer. If this chapter is any indication, then he wants us to be passionate – presenting our case as it relates to his character and his Word. Not simply reciting the same requests over and over and over…in boring style. He wants our brains engaged.
So instead of completely destroying the Israelites and re-assigning Abraham’s covenant to Moses (vs.9-10), the Lord relents (vs.14). The Israelites are allowed to continue their journey and Aaron’s position as high priest is preserved. Grace. There is anger. And there is consequence. But above all, there is grace.
Dear Father, may I be as passionate and intelligent in prayer as Moses. May I plead on behalf of those I love, as he did, and always bring my whole mind, body and soul in prayer – not just my words. Thank you that I can come to you directly, about anything…that you truly listen and that you are rich in grace.